Bikepacking, Nouvelle Zelande

The end of the journey

It’s been a roller coaster of emotions, constantly re-orienting the adventure, it was a great vacation. I didn’t ride as much as I expected (about 1800km) I took the time to enjoy my self and discover New Zealand. I met so many awesome people and saw so much more then I would have seen if I had stayed on the road. I got to taste a lot of good food, coffee, beer and wine.

I slept so well at the end of each day, exhausted from the day and comfortable sleeping in my tent or in one of the cottages at a Holiday park. I got used the birds signing very loudly every morning, but still woke up at 6 every day.

Today was our last day loading the bikes, our last ride in New Zealand. Tomorrow the bikes will be packed and we will be enjoying a couple of easy walking days before flying home. I am really happy not to try and fit my life’s essentials on my bike for the 29th day in a row, excited not to have to fold my bivie, roll my mattress or push on my clothing to fit all in the seatbag. I am now a professional at fitting a wine bottle so it won’t break on the ride, but still can’t fit a coffee cup anywhere on the bike.

We were really lucky and had no mechanical issues and fairly good weather. We only had one really wet day, but lots of wind. I wouldn’t be able to ride here in summer, We got sunburnt, even with lots of sunscreen and cloudy days.

I will miss the essential food groups: chocolat, salted cashews, beef jerkiez and chips. But won’t miss the usual meals: instant oatmeal, boiled eggs, dehydrated meals, cup-a-soup. The wine in a can was hilarious, but New Zealand has great wines well worth carrying the extra weight of a bottle! I was positively surprised with the quality and diversity of cheeses. I would be lying if I said we ate camping food all the time, New Zealand puts everything in a pie, so I had bacon/egg pie for breakfast a few times and a few different weird ones along the way. We also treated ourself to good meals when there was a good restaurant in town. I will miss our lunch spots, eating on the trails, enjoying amazing sceneries or bird watching.

I have been wearing the same two bibs and jerseys for a month and a pair of tights, I cannot wait to put on a pair of jeans and a real bra!

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Bikepacking, Nouvelle Zelande

Alps 2 ocean trail

The last 2 days were just perfect!

The Alps 2 ocean trail can be completed in 2 to 8 days, it is recommended to give yourself at least 4 days to ride it. A lot of the sections were very easy, but most of it deserves a certain fitness level. The trail is gaining in popularity, some tour companies will shuttle riders from one easy section to the next and a growing number of cyclotouristes are discovering it. There are more and more accommodations along the trail, but make sure you plan accordingly, because not every town has a supermarket or lodging.

Yesterday we planned a 90km day riding from Otematata to Duntroon, but got really worried when we couldn’t find a place to stay the night. We resorted in drinking our sorrows at the Ostler wine tasting establishment and told the manager about our issue. Jim, from Ostler Vineyards, helped us find the nicest accommodation we had all month and saved me from camping with the cows in someone’s field. Kelsey may have been a bit tipsy riding to destination, but with the huge tailwind and a mostly downhill ride, we made it!

Maylene just opened her bed and breakfast and we were her first customers. The property (Grandview farmstay) sits on an 800 hectar dairy farm and is located right on the A2O trail and has impressive views and a HUGE BATHTUB 🙂 neither Kelsey or I wanted to leave this morning.

The last section of the trail is as fun and scenic as the others, steep climbs with fun switchbacks, scary tunnel, awesome rock formations,… Ending in Oamaru is also a good way to end the journey, a cool old Victorian town. A lot of cool shops, penguin viewing and a very good coffee roaster (steam coffee).

We stayed on the trail, didn’t get lost, climbed some great hills, drank very good wine, ate very tasty local cheese and charcuterie and had an amazing sleep, doesn’t get much better!

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Bikepacking, Nouvelle Zelande

Please, more trails like this!

Every day Kelsey and I leave the campsite and head to the trail, every morning for the last couple of weeks, we have been heading the wrong way! Today was our first day following the map properly and not getting lost. Following the recommendations of the New Zealand bikepacking group, we got on the Alps to ocean trail.

We left Lake Tekapo yesterday and enjoyed an easy day of mainly downhill easy bike path riding to Twizel. After a frosty sleep, I was happy to leave the elevation and enjoy the warmth of the sun, but not without having my daily latte at a very good local shop. We road on very nice trails with an easy grade and along the most beautiful lake and scenery. Lake Pukaki has the most beautiful colour and the mountains views are breathtaking! For the first day on our trip, no sheep or cow sightings!

Twizel was not the most impressive town, but had all the essentials, coffee shops, bakeries and a good campsite. But the trail was AWESOME! Started with a quiet ride along the water, followed by some fun easy single track along the lake surrounded by rose bushes. As if it wasn’t already perfect, this amazing climb started with constant switchbacks accompanied by the most amazing views! A picnic table on the side of the trail, just before getting to the top, was the best lunch spot ever! The descend was also fun, riding on single, then doubletrack through little rivers ending up with…a coffee cart! the best coffee spot, serving an excellent latte! In the middle of nowhere, this very nice gentleman (Lakes coffee) set up his coffee business, the greatest idea and the best way to take a break before getting on the pavement and getting to the next campsite. Tomorrow’s ‘s breaks may involve wine 🙂

We didn’t get lost, no one got injured, I didn’t lose anything, we avoided the rain and road one of the best trail I have ever ridden!

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Bikepacking, Nouvelle Zelande

Riding the pavement

It’s been 3 days since we left Greymouth. We left the West coast on the train taking us through Arthur’s pass to Christchurch. There is one last trail I want to ride, the Alp 2 Ocean trail. Christchurch may be a nice city, but with 10 days left on our trip, I chose to get to Lake Tekapo as fast as possible, that means a lot of road riding, 280 km of hilly sealed road.

First stop out of the train is Lincoln, a charming university town with too many food and coffee options for our needs. I was really happy to enjoy a night in a real room with my own shower :). Great breakfast/bakery option for breakfast and as always, a very good latte. The road is mainly flat or a false flat going to Geraldine, strong head wind, but a good ride. It’s awesome to find great coffee shops in the smallest towns along the way. We didn’t get lost that day,except when Google sent us on a dead end street, but that wasn’t my fault!

Geraldine is this great little town, with an awesome cheese store (they let us taste every one of them :)) as well as a jam and a chocolate store, bakeries and coffee shops. With all the sampling, we left a lot later then planned!

Going to lake Tekapo wasn’t a piece of cake! 1150m of climbing on a 90km ride with a constant headwind and some wind gusts that pushed me off the road. It was an awesome day! I may be insane, but a road ride on flat terrain would be boring, so it was an awesome day! The views were amazing throughout the day.

Now, time for a glass of wine (or 2) to accompany the deshydrated soup and local cheese we picked up in Geraldine.

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Bikepacking, Nouvelle Zelande

Staying on the trail

Anyone who knows me knows that I am geographically challenged, that I spend a good part of my time daydreaming and misplace my belongings…a lot! Kelsey is….Kelsey! She cut a finger and got stitches before the trip, broke her hand mountain biking in Rotorua, is allergic to any bug bites (lots of bugs in NZ)… we make an awesome duo! You should have seen us trying to figure out how to get back to our campground in Nelson, navigating the roundabouts, the under and overpasses. We got king of lost trying to stay on gravel roads off the great taste trail and ended up in a gravel pit. Now, we are staying on marked routes and official trails, no more exploring, no more adventures 😦

The West coast wilderness trail was great, we took it out and back in 2 days. I was worried it would be a boring ride (like a rail trail) but it was quite nice. We road along the sea, farm fields, on suspension bridges, over gorges, through little rivers, forest, old mining areas,with a varied terrain and good elevation gain. The trail is very well marked and maintained, no getting of course and almost no highway riding 🙂

Not much for food along the way, since most of the trail is in the middle of nowhere. Greymouth and Hokitika are big enough and have good food, coffee shops and accommodations. 20km from Greymouth is a really good restaurant, where I got to try a local specialty the whitebait sandwich. Very good food, excellent latte and a funny white bread sandwich at the Theatre Royal hotel! In Hokitika we had an awesome meal at the ocean front restaurant, but the accommodation we chose was quite awful!

Taking the train to Christchurch tomorrow, should be a very scenic ride!

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Bikepacking, Nouvelle Zelande

Journée de vacances

After a day on the highway we decided to treat ourself. The taste trail was the best way to relax and get back to vacation mode!

We booked two nights at our holiday camp in Nelson and spent a day riding without luggage. The Taste trail has negligeable elevation gain and is mainly on bike paths. The riding surface is a mix of pavement, gravel, dirt and wooden boardwalk. It was refreshing to ride through vineyards instead of just sheep and cow fields. The wine tasting was also very refreshing 🙂 Just in the middle of our day we stumbled upon a great vineyard offering lunch in a very nice setting, the Seifried estate. We took our time tasting local cheese and seafood, as well as very good wine.

The road to our next trail is too hilly for my one handed cycling partner, we decided to take the bus and get to Greymouth a couple of days earlier. This safer way gives us time to ride the West coast wilderness trail before we get on the train to Christchurch.

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Bikepacking, Nouvelle Zelande

Give me a break or a shoulder!

It’s been 3 days in a row without incident!

The train ride to Wellington was perfect. After all the excitement, being stuck in a train with beautiful scenery and a glass of wine, I was happy to relax. The commute from the train to my hotel in Wellington was great, an easy ride on a bike path with a beautiful sunset! We hopped on the ferry the next day, ready for new adventures on the South Island.

Now time to ride again!

From Picton, it is 115km of pavement taking us to Nelson and the start of the great taste trail. Good thing I didn’t have the lumber jack breakfast. Amazing ride on Queen Charlotte’s drive and some great climbs right from the start. I eat hills for breakfast, but today I had them for lunch too! Sadly the ride takes us on the highway and that part wasn’t fun at all. Views are awesome, climbs are long and a good grade, downhills are exhilarating, but the lack of shoulder and the heavy traffic were scary. Many logging trucks came too close for our comfort, cars would drive on the shoulder taking curves too fast, the shoulder was mainly narrow or inexistant.

We took the time to have a real lunch for once. We traded the beef jerky for some grilled local mussels at the Mussel pot in Havelock, very tasty!

Very happy with an other day on the saddle and planning the days to come. Sadly no trails for a few days, more road rides until we find more dirt tracks.

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Bikepacking, Nouvelle Zelande

Human nature

When my daughter’s phone was stolen at a campsite last week, I wasn’t surprised by human nature. With time you learn to accept that people suck! But in the last 24hours my faith was restored.

Not only did the police and search and rescue got us out of the Pureora forest, they went back today to find my bivie and brought it back to our hotel. The police chief who coordinated the whole thing offered to take me back to the start of the Timber trail where we were trying to get (it is an hour away from Taupo)The mechanic’s workload at Top Gear was too heavy to fix my bike in time for my departure, so the manager adjusted it and made sure I could get back to my adventure.

I didn’t plan to get to Taupo, but I am happy I did. We met amazing people and enjoyed a needed day off. I was happy to get my first good coffee in days as well as a monster breakfast. There is also lots of riding to be done here, I will definitely be back.

Leaving for the Timber trail tomorrow thanks to Mark and all the staff at Top gear, thanks to Everyone from search and rescue in Taupo.

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Bikepacking, Nouvelle Zelande

A very long day!

You know these days that don’t end up the way they should have? The ones where you regret a bunch of decisions? That trail that I shouldn’t have taken, the point where I should have turned around when the hill was too steep and muddy and slippery, that junction that I should have investigated more, … we are now sitting in our sleeping bags waiting to be rescued

Yesterday was a varied day of riding. We started with rolling hills through farm country, then got onto gravel and the caught the Waikato river trail and enjoyed fun and bumpy singletrack, punchy hills, and light dirt trail. I ended up crashing, feeling over confident riding down a gravel hill with my luggage filled cyclocross. Just scratches, but lesson learned, I will not try to show Kelsey my downhill skills again!

Today started the same as yesterday, but we took a more remote trail to try to get to the timber rail trail. It was awesome being in the middle of nowhere! We got on the skinniest suspended bridge I have seen, an old atv trails and lots of big climbs. We were really happy when we found our lunch spot, the marker for the middle of the north island. It is after eating our dried salami and m&m that everything went south or west or ? We took a trail that wasn’t ment to be ridden and even difficult to walk. After walking for 5 hours on a trail that was supposed to be 2.5km, I made the 111 call.

Search and rescue found us and brought us to Taupo. We will ride and relax here for a couple of days. Enough excitement and remoteness for now.

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Bikepacking, Nouvelle Zelande

Leaving civilization

Rotorua was awesome! Plenty of good coffee shops, good restaurants and awesome mountain bike trails! We took our cross bikes up a few of the intermediate trails. They are in such a good shape, very well maintained. You wouldn’t be able to tell that so many riders use them and so much rain fell on them lately. I could have spent many more days riding there!

Sadly, Kelsey fell and broke her hand. She will be able to continue riding, but we will adapt the itinerary.

The rotten egg smell of Rotorua’s thermal activity is getting to me. I am quite happy to get back to farm country.

We are taking the Te Ara Ahi trail today, 45 km of pavement, gravel and single track taking us to Waikite Valley and it’s amazing thermal pools. We didn’t spend more then 2 minutes on the highway, it was bike paths and trails for most of the ride:) Partly sunny, totally windy, lots of good climbs, it was a good day. The free hot pools included with our $35 campsite were also awesome! It was great to soak for an hour and warm up after that cold windy day.

Back on the road tomorrow for even more remoteness!

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